Marijuana Legalization In Canada Delayed Several Months As Retailers Struggle To Prepare

Marijuana legalization in Canada is being delayed by several months as politicians bow to retailers’ pleas for more time to prepare for sales of the recreational drug.

Leaders in the Senate announced late Thursday that they had reached a deal on a timeline for the legalization of marijuana — a schedule that pushes the start of retail sales past July 1 (Canada Day), which had been previously announced as the date for full legalization across the country.

Peter Harder, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's point-man in the Senate, and Larry Smith, the Conservative leader in the upper chamber, said they have agreed on a path forward for Bill C-45, the legislation that legalizes marijuana. While Senator Harder had wanted a vote at third reading in May — the last legislative step before a bill receives royal assent and becomes law — that vote will now be held at the beginning of June.

Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor told members of the Senate last week that it will take eight to 12 weeks longer than initially planned to get the retail system up and running after the legislation receives royal assent. That means Canadians probably can't expect to buy legal marijuana before early August this year.

"There's no exact date but, if you do the math, you'll see it won't be July 2018," Minister Petitpas Taylor told reporters Thursday after Question Period in the House of Commons. "Cannabis legalization is not about a date, it's about a process ... We want this process done as seamlessly as possible."

The delayed timeline is a victory for Conservatives, who have demanded more time to study the implications of legalizing a drug that has been outlawed for more than 100 years. The planned legalization of marijuana has caused a lot of political wrangling at all levels of government in Canada - on issues ranging from age of consumption to law enforcement, impaired driving and the retail price of the drug.

The Senate’s social affairs committee will now take the lead on reviewing the legalization framework in its entirety, while the Aboriginal peoples committee will look at how the bill affects Indigenous peoples. The legal and constitutional affairs committee will focus on criminal measures; much of the bill deals with changes to Canada’s Criminal Code.

The Senate agreed Thursday to send parts of the bill to the national security and defence committee to review the bill's implications for the country's police, and to the foreign affairs committee to review how the bill will affect Canada's international obligations, including changes required at the border after marijuana becomes legal.